Making Cinema Greener

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Tue, 03/03/2020 - 10:12 -- Tom Bert

Different trends are emerging and developing when it comes to sustainability in cinema. Different trends are emerging and developing when it comes to sustainability in cinema. The European Union is playing a leading role with regulations around eco design and the circular economy; energy efficiency and renewable energy; waste and hazardous substances. The restriction of hazardous substances is one that has a very close link to cinema, given its impact on the production, sales and availability of mercury UHP lamps. These lamps are used in some lower brightness projector models for cinema. The current exemption for UHP lamps in projectors in Europe is valid until July 21, 2021. It is a realistic scenario that from that date onwards no new products may be sold using these lamps and that only spare lamp sales will be allowed in the EU.

Something similar is happening as a consequence of the regulation on conflict minerals (tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold). This regulation will very likely impact the availability and price of materials used in the electrodes of Xenon- and UHP-lamps.

The regulations around eco design and energy efficiency also have a close link with the cinema industry. Almost all products in the projection booth or lobby are in the scope of the EU eco design regulation. Chillers and external power supplies have to comply with energy efficiency targets; computers, servers and other IT equipment have to comply with resource efficiency regulation. Digital signage displays have to meet targets around energy efficiency, ease of repair and access to repair info as well as availability of spare parts. Projectors for home use have to meet targets around power consumption in standby mode, a regulation we can expect to ripple into business-to-business markets like cinema eventually.

We see that other regions including China and the United States have been closely following the early adopters steps that the EU has taken in other domains. We at Barco advise you to check with your local regulation office about what is happening in your region.

At Barco, we closely monitor these evolutions and make sure that we (and our customers) are ahead of the curve. The migration from lamp-based projection to RGB-laser was and is an important enabler. Where Xenon-based projectors reached energy efficiency values of less that 5lm/W; laser phosphor raised this bar to 7lm/W.

With Barco’s new RGB-laser based Series4 projectors taking it beyond 10lm/W that is an improvement of more than a factor of two. That lowers the consumption of electrical power to close to 400GWh, and that’s only counting cinema projectors in Europe. Other eco design features we use and have applied in our Series4 portfolio include:

Stand-by power and power management – Series4 projectors have a new 3W Eco mode

Lifetime – 40,000 hours constant light output on Series4 

Product weight reduction – 70 kg less on Series4 compared to Series2

Modular design

Remote repair via the new web interface

Reduction of consumables, for example, a reusable air filter

Reduction of accessories in the box

Larger chains already include sustainability in their annual reports. Smaller cinemas can and should use sustainability in their communications with and marketing towards moviegoers, as the topic is more and more top-of-mind with consumers.

Here is a list of articles offering more details on this topic:

The Circular Economy

Energy Efficiency: Targets, Directives and Rules

Waste Legislation Framework

Hazardous Waste

Mercury Spotlight

Conflict Minerals Legislation

Tom Bert is Barco’s director of cinema technology. This article is based on a presentation that Barco gave at the UNIC Cinema Days in October 2019. It is published here because the company wants it to reach the widest audience possible.